Photo: Chris Owens
Defending series champion Scott Dixon (#9 Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy) started sixth in IndyCar’s first run in 11 years at the Phoenix 6-g oval. Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske, Chevy) took pole with Tony Kanaan (#10 Ganassi) in P2. Juan Pablo Montoya (#2 Penske) and Charlie Kimball (#83, Ganassi) made up Row 2, with Ed Carpenter (#20 Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevy) starting fifth. Josef Newgarden (#21 Ed Carpenter) qualified P7, with rookie—but F1 veteran—Max Chilton (#8 Ganassi), making his first oval start, next door. Marco Andretti (#27 Andretti Autosport) was the highest qualifying Honda at P11.
Montoya passed Kanaan for second during Lap 26 (of 250). Castroneves had a right-front tire failure in Lap 40 and had to pit from the lead, leaving a Top 3 of Montoya, Kanaan, and Kimball. The first caution came out during Lap 50. The leaders came in for the first round of pit stops, with Montoya leaving in first, Dixon second, and Kanaan third.
Montoya lost his right-front during Lap 96, moving Dixon to the lead, Kanaan into second and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti) into third. The second caution waved in Lap 120. The leaders pitted. Dixon retained the lead, Will Power (#12 Penske) moved into second, and Kanaan slipped back to third. Hunter-Reay had pitted before the yellow on Lap 116.
The third caution flew one lap into the restart at 135 as Kimball spun following contact with Newgarden. Kimball got a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Caution number 4 came out during Lap 146. Kanaan made his final stop on Lap 195 right before Carpenter hit the wall to bring out another yellow. Graham Rahal (#15 RLL Racing, Honda) moved into third. The rest of the leaders pitted under the caution.
Dixon came out first, followed by Simon Pagenaud (#22 Penske) and Power. Dixon led until the end to rack his 39th career win, tying him with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car victories list. The win also gave Dixon, a four-time series champ, a race win in 12 consecutive seasons to set a record of his own. The 35-year-old was previously tied with wins in 11 straight seasons with Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Helio Castroneves.
"It's mind-boggling, for sure," said Dixon. "For me, I feel very privileged to be racing, being an Indy car driver, being part of the Verizon IndyCar Series, and then being part of Team Target. All my wins except for one have been with this team. I hope we can continue to build on it and the numbers are great. It sounds a bit strange when you hear the names that we're amongst fighting on the wins list.”
The race ended under caution after rookie Alexander Rossi made contact with the wall two laps from the finish. Pagenaud finished second, Power third, and Kanaan fourth. Rahal was the highest finishing Honda, in fifth, followed by Newgarden and Chilton. Pagenaud’s finish moved him into the season points lead.
"I knew I had to make up a bunch of spots in the first few laps and I got a good start and got a couple of positions on the first lap and another when Luca [Filippi] dropped back,” said Rahal. “I felt decent about that, I was just trying to close the gap. The team was keeping me up to date on where Helio was the whole time and I knew he couldn't get through traffic.”